The Klondike Gold Rush

Gold! Gold! Gold! Newspaper headlines across the US screamed of gold and riches from the Yukon. It was the summer of 1897 and the US was in the middle of an economic recession. Bold-print claims of easy riches filled the imaginations of people across the United States.

Inspired by dreams of gold, people sold all their belongings to head north to the Yukon. Men poured into Seattle and other port cities on the West Coast. Ships, packed with men and supplies, embarked on the great voyage northward. The ships steamed up the Canadian coastline to the Alaskan towns of Skagway and Dyea, and more than 100,000 people made the journey.

Skagway and Dyea became bustling boomtowns as frantic gold seekers prepared for the long trek ahead. In order to cross into the Yukon, people were required by Canadian Authorities to have a one-year’s supply of provisions. A year’s supply usually amounted to over one thousand pounds of food and gear, and would have to be transported 550 miles to the gold fields in Dawson city.

It was winter by the time most people were ready to make the journey up the Chilkoot and White Pass trails. The freezing temperatures, snow, and ice made the journey through the mountains extremely difficult. The going was slow as each man had to make multiple trips back and forth along the trail to bring the required supplies. Some men used horses to help bring supplies up the steep and jagged trail, which caused many of the horses to collapse due to the excessive load. Over 3,000 horses died on one particularly difficult part of the trail, and is now known as Dead Horse Gulch.

The Klondike Gold Rush
Photo Courtesy of PBS

The Chilkoot and White Pass trails are about 35 miles long, but it took the men around three months to pack all their supplies up the trails to the shores of lake Bennet. For some, the visions of gold had begun to fade. Many of the men, discouraged by the difficulties, lost hope and turned back. Some died from exposure to the cold, sickness, starvation and suicide.

Chikoot Trail

For those that did make it up the Chilkoot and White Pass trails, another great challenge was ahead; they had to build boats and travel over 500 miles down the river to the gold fields in Dawson City. When the ice finally melted in spring of 1898, hundreds of boats pushed off to make the journey. The hand-constructed boats were weighed down with men and supplies. Many of the boats capsized or were split open on rocks as they bumped and splashed through rough sections along the river. Men plunged into the icy waters and precious supplies, that had been so difficult to carry up the trails, were destroyed. Many more men lost their lives along the dangerous river passage to Dawson City.

Of the 100,000 people that started the journey, only 30,000 made it all the way to Dawson City, and only a handful of the 30,000 found enough gold to become rich. After months of arduous travel, gold seekers found that most of the gold-rich land around Bonanza Creek had already been claimed. And when the men finally found a place to dig, the work was back-breaking.

Golden Staircase

After clearing the first twelve inches of top-soil, the ground was frozen solid. Men built massive fires in an attempt to thaw the permafrost. Wood had to be cut and hauled to feed the fires. Men shoveled out sludge and chipped through rock. They piled up mounds of dirt and rock that would later be shoveled into sluice boxes. Only occasionally did the sluice box reveal tiny yellow specs of precious metal. After months of toil, all the digging revealed that there was no gold of value to be found; the work was difficult and heart-breaking.

In August of 1898, most of the gold seekers headed home in low spirits. They had spent nearly a year of their lives and perhaps all of their money in hopes of finding gold. While it is easy to look back and discover their folly, it is hard to blame them for taking a chance. They set out with dreams of gold and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime.

End of Summer Savings

As we know, summer in San Diego is almost year round but that didn’t stop us from having the most ah-mazing end of summer deals. From Pre-owned Rolex to vintage Chanel, we have the hottest brands and one-of-a-kind treasures at incredible savings. Most of these items are one-of-a-kind and great deals like these sell quickly, so come on in or shop online today.

Click the links below to check out some of our fav’s!! graphicFrom top to bottom

Left Top : Pre-Owned Hamilton with 2.00 CTW Diamond Bezel

Left Bottom: New 9.01 CTW Sapphire & Diamond Bracelet

Center Top: Vintage Chanel Lucite Logo Pin

Center Middle: Vintage Topaz John Hardy Earrings

Center Bottom: Pre-Owned Rolex GMT-Master

Right Top: Vintage 3.00 CTW Sapphire & Diamond Ring

Right Bottom: New 21.80 Sapphire & Diamond Y Necklace


Introducing Our Newest Jewelry Line — Beverly K.


Since 1999, Beverley K. has been dedicated to crafting exquisite jewelry. They are renowned for beautifully detailed styling and fine craftsmanship. New designs are consistently released, keeping their collection fresh and relevant. Owner Morrie Knopp is passionate about every facet of the business. His commitment to excellence has guided Beverley K. into the fine quality brand it is today.


The collection embodies a graceful femininity and there is nothing else quite like it within the jewelry world. Each design celebrates a perfect harmony of gems and precious metals. From lacy, vintage filigree to elegant, modern expression, they offer a variety of rich textures and finishes in bridal rings, wedding bands and fashion jewelry.


Devotion to Craftsmanship
Everything is made in their own factory and must pass through ten completely different quality control stages to meet their impeccable standards. From start to finish, master jewelers create each individual piece with old world craftsmanship. It is a meticulous process. Every surface is hand polished. All of the diamonds and gems are hand-selected to match flawlessly. Skilled artisans engrave and mill by hand. Everything–from the gliding contours of delicate filigree to the pavé ribbons of sparkling diamonds–is refined to pristine perfection.

Come to Leo’s to see this exciting new collection today!


The King of Gems

July’s birthstone is ruby, known as the “King of Gems” for its gloriously rich red color. It has been used to symbolize royalty and strength since antiquity.


One of the most valuable gems in the world in its finest qualities, ruby can command the highest price-per-carat of any colored stone. The most desirable rubies are a pure, saturated red, and come from the Mogok region of Myanmar. These particular gems are often referred to in the trade as “pigeon’s blood” for their color.

ruby illusion halo

Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum, which actually comes in many colors. The blue variety is sapphire, and other colors are known as fancy sapphire. Red corundum gets its color from the mineral chromium, which can actually fluoresce in sunlight causing a fine ruby to appear to glow.



One of the hardest and toughest gems after diamond, ruby is an excellent choice for a daily wear jewelry item such as an engagement ring. Rubies can withstand quite a lot of heat and pressure; you never have to worry about putting a ruby in an ultrasonic cleaner!


If ruby is your gem of choice, don’t worry – you don’t have to break the bank to get a beautiful gem. We have options for every budget!



The Best Engagement Rings in 2015

The Antique-Inspired

This diamond ring embodies the classic look of an antique, but is actually a brand new piece! The old European cut center diamond and milgrain surrounding detail really make this retro ring look and feel like an Art Deco heirloom.

Antique-Inspired Engagement Ring from Leo Hamel

The Heavenly Halo

Make sure you have your sunglasses on while wearing this extra sparkly halo engagement ring from Hearts On Fire! The Hearts On Fire Transcend halo and band are set with 0.46 carats of diamonds and the center diamond is a perfectly cut 1.11 carat Hearts On Fire Dream Diamond.


The Pre-Owned Designer

Why pay full retail price for a designer ring when you can buy a previously owned one at a fraction of the cost? Vintage designer rings are the way to go for price-conscious, eco-friendly shoppers. And seeing a designer piece in-person really helps you realize what kind of craftsmanship is behind a brand like Tacori or Tiffany & Co!


The Stacked Rose Gold 

This rose gold engagement ring can be stacked with two marquise-shaped bands for a delicately beautiful look. Plus, this pink gold looks good on almost every skin tone!

Rose Gold Venetti Engagement Ring

The White & Yellow Gold

White gold engagement rings and jewelry have been the rage lately, but more and more people are starting to incorporate yellow gold into their rings. This Venetti engagement ring has both yellow gold and white gold, which makes it stand the test of time!





Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers is a full-service jewelry store in San Diego and is dedicated to helping customers find their dream diamond engagement ring. Please give us a call at (619) 299-1500 or email us at to inquire about a specific jewelry or watch piece that you are interested in.

Why Your Next Watch Should Be a Pre-Owned Rolex

Pre-owned Rolex watches are both TIMELESS and CLASSIC. They are timeless because of the mastery and functionality of the Rolex design, and are classic because they will never go out of style. Rolex watches are still one of the best selling watches of all time and watch connoisseurs always have at least one Rolex in their collection!

These watches are TOUGH!! They are meant to be worn daily and can take a beating. Some of the most beloved Rolex watches were made to perform specific tasks. For example, the Rolex Submariner is a diving watch and is known for its resistance to water and corrosion. The Rolex Daytona is a chronograph used in the racing industry to measure speed. Rolex timepieces are made to withstand years of sunlight, dust, and water submersion. Some people deem the nicks and scratches on their Rolex watches as the battle scars of a trusted companion who has been with them on some of their greatest adventures.

Pre-Owned 18K Gold Rolex Submariner

Rolex watches can hold or increase in VALUE. Like any classic that is crafted with the utmost attention to detail and aesthetics, a vintage Rolex can have incredible value and is a true investment. These perfectly engineered instruments are coveted in the collectors’ world. In fact, a 1942 Rolex Chronograph sold at an auction for 1.16 million in 2011!

Leo Hamel Watch Repair

Modern pre-owned Rolexes are an amazing deal. Since these watches were crafted to be workhorses, they hold up over the years. When refurbished and refinished they can look every bit as sleek and shiny as a new watch. Buying a pre-owned watch will give you that same great look for a fraction of the retail price. Only YOU will know you didn’t pay full retail price.

Rolex Watch Refinish
Before Refinishing and After Refinishing Our Customer’s Rolex Datejust


Come to our San Diego Avenue showroom to see our ever-changing selection of like-new, pre-owned, and vintage Rolex watches, or to get your Swiss or German watch serviced. Servicing your timepiece every 3 to 5 years will allow you to pass your watch down to your children!

If you would like to get your watch refinished to look like new again by our in-house watch repair department, please visit our website or call us at (619) 299-1500.


The Diamond – April’s Lustrous Birthstone

Diamonds are one of the most coveted gemstones in the world, and people that are born in April are lucky enough to declare these lustrous masterpieces their birthstone.

The origin of birthstones are somewhat uncertain; however, it is hypothesized that they date back to biblical times when a priest adorned his breastplate with a dozen different-colored gems. Each of the 12 gems eventually became associated with the zodiac, which led to one stone being assigned for each month.

Birthstones by Month. Image courtesy of AGS.

According to the Gemological Institute of America and other grading institutions, a diamond’s quality is evaluated based on the 4 Cs: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight.

Color refers to the absence of color (usually referring to yellow or brown tints) in a white diamond. The less color in the stone, the whiter its appearance and the more desirable and valuable it is. There are, however, diamonds that are valuable because of their intensity of color, such as fancy yellow, pink, blue, black, and others.

Pear Shaped White & Fancy Light Pink Diamond Engagement Ring
Fancy Yellow Diamond Engagement Ring

Clarity measures the amount, size and placement of internal “inclusions” and external blemishes. Inclusions are bits of crystals, minerals, or even other diamonds that were captured inside the diamond while it was forming. Clarity grades run from Flawless, containing no visible imperfections under 10-power magnification, to Included, containing a number of eye-visible imperfections.

Yehuda's diamonds are clarity enhanced, which saves the customer money on a nicer looking diamond!
Yehuda’s diamonds are clarity enhanced, which saves the customer money on a nicer looking diamond!

Cut refers to the proportion and arrangement of the diamond’s facets and the quality of workmanship. The amount of brilliance, sparkle and fire in a diamond is mainly determined by cut.

Emerald Cut Diamond Engagement Ring
Marquise Cut Diamond Engagement Ring

Carat weight refers to a diamond’s weight. Generally speaking, the heavier the diamond, the larger it appears in size. A diamond’s price is partly determined by weight (number of carats times the price per carat). The price per carat varies according to the other quality factors of color, clarity, and cut.

Small 0.17 Carat Diamond Engagement Ring


Large 4.96 Carat Diamond Engagement Ring

Vintage and antique diamond engagement rings are popular with people of all ages because the vintage price for a diamond is generally lower than the new retail price for a similar diamond. Buying vintage also helps to save the environment because no new diamonds were mined to create the ring.

Antique Diamond Engagement Ring from the Edwardian Era

Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers in San Diego, California specializes in new, vintage, and antique diamond engagement rings. To browse just a sample of the jewelry and watches that are available in our showroom, please visit

Rolex Watches Stand the Test of Time

Preowned Rolex Watches from Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers San DiegoThere are three reasons why Rolex watches stand the test of time – the movement, the craftsmanship, and the innovation. In over 100 years this company dedicated to masterful timepieces has not only thrived, but their watches have become a symbol of status and wealth throughout the world.

If you are looking to invest in a heirloom that is known for quality, Rolex may be the statement piece for you. Unlike other unstable investments, a Rolex tends to hold its value over time. Because Rolex carefully monitors the supply of their timepieces, these watches are one investment that can be used for years and still give a return, a big benefit in times of inflation.


  • 1905 – Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex (then called “Wilsdorf and Davis”) in London.
  • 1914 – The Kew Observatory awarded a Class A precision certificate to a Rolex watch.
  • 1919 – Wilsdorf moved the company to Geneva, Switzerland where it was established as the Rolex Watch Company.
  • 1925 – The Kew Observatory awarded the first Class A precision certificate to a ladies watch – a Rolex watch.
  • 1926 – The Rolex Oyster was invented, the world’s first truly waterproof case.
  • 1927 – Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel wearing a Rolex Oyster watch.
  • 1931 – The Rolex Perpetual rotor was invented, the first self-winding movement.
  • 1945 – The Rolex Datejust was produced, the world’s first waterproof, self-winding calendar wrist chronometer showing the date automatically in a dial window.
  • 1953 – The Rolex Submariner was introduced, the first wristwatch for skin-divers.
  • 1954 – The first ladies’ Rolex Oyster Perpetual was on the market.
  • 1954 – The Rolex GMT Master was produced, made especially for pilots, showing exact time in any two time zones.
  • 1956 – The Rolex Day-Date was introduced; the first wrist chronometer with date and the day of the week written in full (now comes in 26 languages).
  • 1960- Hans Wilsdorf died, leaving his company to the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.
  • 1971 – The Rolex Sea-Dweller was launched, the first with a helium escape valve, guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 2000 feet.
  • 1980 – The Rolex Sea-Dweller is now guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 4000 feet.
  • 2011 – The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer in an impressive variety of precious metals and dial colors, with and without diamonds, on straps or bracelets, some now available with ceramic bezels, is still first on many people’s lists as the finest watch available.


A Colorful Engagement

Princess Diana had a strong influence on influence on fashion, style, and design, starting with her luxurious oval sapphire and diamond engagement ring. When Prince William gave the now-vintage sapphire ring to Kate Middleton, it rekindled awareness of colored gemstones as an alternative to the customary diamond center stone.

Today, more brides-to-be are foregoing traditions and choosing unique engagement rings to suit their style and preferences; often choosing a stunning colored gemstone ring or a distinctive vintage diamond ring to express their love. Whatever kind of engagement ring expresses your personal style, we have it for you at Leo’s!

When choosing a colored stone for your engagement ring, there are a few factors to keep in mind. After all, this is a ring you’ll be wearing every day and you want to be sure that the gem you select is up to the task. The Mohs scale, a comparative hardness chart for minerals, can tell help you measure the relative ease or difficulty one has scratching any particular mineral with the adjacent one. As you can see in the image below, it’s not a constant increase from one hardness rating to the next – diamond at 10 is four times harder than corundum (sapphires and rubies) at 9.

Hardness and toughness aren’t the same thing, however. Hardness is resistance to scratching and toughness is resistant to breakage. Did you know that jadeite, the green jade so prized in Eastern countries, is tougher than diamond? Diamond is the hardest substance on earth, it’s true, but it’s not the toughest – a direct hammer blow will likely chip or cleave a diamond. A direct hammer blow on a fine piece of jade won’t accomplish much, but jade is much more easily scratched. In short, it is important to select a gemstone that will match your needs for durability, as well as aesthetics.

To browse just some of our selection of colored diamond engagement rings, visit our website!

For colored gemstone jewelry, please go here.

Leo Hamel’s Perfect Proposal Contest 2014

Leo Hamel Perfect Proposal LogoEveryone dreams of the ultimate surprise proposal – and, for the 4th year in a row, Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers is giving the opportunity to make that dream a reality!

To enter, San Diegans will submit their love stories to Leo Hamel’s Perfect Proposal and share why their beloved deserves the surprise proposal of a lifetime. The lucky person that is picked will win an $11,000 Venetti engagement ring set with 1.34 carats of dazzling diamonds.Perfect Proposal Engagement Ring

In addition to receiving the designer ring, the winner will surprise their special someone by proposing  on stage at the Balboa Park December Nights festival on December 5, 2014.

To enter, users can visit and submit their love story. Submissions end on November 15, 2014, and the winner will be notified on November 21, 2014.

2014 Leo Hamel Perfect Proposal Contest Perfect Proposal Leo Hamel 2014